Uber Chief Executive Officer Dara Khosrowshahi met with India’s Minister of State for Civil Aviation earlier this week to talk about possible partnerships between the startup and the South Asian country, including a flying car collaboration. The 48-year-old tweeted about the meeting with Jayant Sinha on Thursday, saying the duo discussed both airport partnerships and what they deem is “the future of commercial air travel” – flying vehicles. The contents of the gathering weren’t disclosed but the move itself is largely in line with long-term ambitions of both parties; Mr. Khosrowshahi has been touting flying cars as part of Uber’s endgame for several months now, giving extremely optimistic predictions about their commercialization that he estimates could happen in as little as five years. Mr. Sinha, a former venture capitalist with vast experience in the tech industry, previously promised flying vehicles will make transportation accessible to every Indian, vowing to create a political and economic climate in which such technologies could thrive.
Last month, India’s aviation minister said the government department he leads is actively discussing the concept of an “air rickshaw” to solve the issue of transportation in the country, describing what’s essentially a large drone for moving people. New Delhi’s official repeatedly touted flying taxis as the ultimate mobility solution, claiming existing technologies can already enable drone-based transportation that isn’t more expensive than traveling by car or an airplane. Uber is presumably looking to partner with India on testing such contraptions with the ambition to eventually commercialize them in the country. The ride-hailing startup announced a flying car partnership with NASA late last year, revealing it will start testing such solutions in 2020. The company is already understood to be working on a prototype capable of carrying four passengers and flying at up to 200mph (322kmph). The taxi is planned to be tested at the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport before its trials move to Los Angeles.
In response to Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s recent online criticism of the idea of flying cars that he said will be “1,000 times bigger and noisier” than drones, Mr. Khosrowshahi took to Twitter to say improved battery tech and multiple smaller rotors should make such aircraft as inconspicuous and environment-friendly as possible. Uber‘s top official even explicitly thanked Mr. Musk for Tesla’s advancements in battery R&D, suggesting silent aircraft wouldn’t be possible without it. Mr. Khosrowshahi previously indicated Hyperloop One and the convoluted infrastructure it requires may not be needed if the industry can simply deliver a convenient and affordable flying transportation solution.
— dara khosrowshahi (@dkhos) February 22, 2018